Who killed the U.S. ambassador in Libya?
Update: USA Today reports the “deadly embassy attacks were days in the making,” cites an expert who says “the protest was planned by Salafists well before news circulated of an objectionable video ridiculing Islam’s prophet, Mohammed”… and points to the imprisonment of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman as the original cause animating the crowd in Cairo. This might also point more strongly toward the Imprisoned Omar Abdel Rahman Brigades in Libya as the source of the killers.
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Let’s dispense with the nonsense that the people who made or promoted the film cited as the provocation for riots in Cairo and Libya (and now, reportedly, spreading to Sudan, Tunisia, Kuwait, and Morocco) are responsible for the murder of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Barbarians do not get a veto over the rights of free people. Any attempt to hold free speech “responsible” for murderous attacks, to any degree, is unacceptable.
It’s fair enough to criticize the content of said speech as insensitive, inaccurate, or what have you, but that is a task for another day. Placing such criticism ahead of outrage over the violence in Cairo and Benghazi, as the Obama Administration has been distressingly consistent about doing, is a dereliction of duty in the defense of American ideals. There is a difference between arguing with “offensive” speech, and classifying it as a murder weapon.
Mike Barnicle and Donny Deutsch of MSNBC actually entertained the idea of arresting pastor Terry Jones – who once threatened to burn a Koran, and appears to have spoken well of this “inflammatory anti-Islam film,” but has no obvious connection to its production. In other words, the MSNBC hosts seriously debated the merits of someone for the “crime” of exercising free speech to discuss other free speech that violent Islamists found offensive.
The old “shouting fire in a crowded theater” standard does not apply here – not without giving Islam, and Islam alone, a special elevated status as a sort of permanently crowded global theater. That would be an intellectual capitulation to violence, and the acceptance of an essential principle of sharia law in place of American ideals: Islam Is Different.
So who actually pulled the trigger? For starters, it doesn’t seem very likely that mobs around the world suddenly, randomly, simultaneously became aware of a YouTube video critical of Islam and instantaneously erupted in violence. There were already warnings of possible threats to the embassies, and it was, after all, September 11. This was organized, orchestrated, and coordinated.
The Muslim Brotherhood seems a likely suspect. They have been extravagant in their condemnations of the “Innocence of Muslims” film. A Bloomberg News report says the Brotherhood’s political arm called the film “a racist crime and a failed attempt to provoke sectarian strife between the two elements of the nation, Muslims and Christians.” This “nation” referred to in this case was Egypt.
The Brotherhood went on to call the film a “blatant violation of religious sanctities, international norms and conventions on human rights which emphasize that freedom of expression with respect to religion must be restricted by controls within the law that safeguard public interest.”
That’s pretty stern stuff from a group Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, once famously described as “largely secular.” The Brotherhood pointedly has not condemned the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, or the replacement of its shredded American flag with a black al-Qaeda-style banner bearing Islamic verse. On the other hand, leading elements of the crowds in Cairo and Benghazi have been identified as Salafists. As extreme as they are, the Muslim Brotherhood is basically the decaffeinated version of the Salafists.
Suspicion quickly focused upon various groups in Libya linked to al-Qaeda. There are quite a few such gentleman’s clubs up and running in Libya, including the Ansar al-Sharia Brigade and the Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades. The latter organization is accused of providing the trigger men in a CNN report, which quotes a former “leading member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group” tendering the opinion that “an attack like this would likely have required preparation. This would not seem to be merely a protest which escalated.”
The Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades, named for the Egyptian sheik who organized the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, is also said to have been behind rocket attacks against the British ambassador and a Red Cross convoy in June. They also claimed responsibility for setting off a bomb outside the U.S. Embassy in July. It is thought that they might have staged the deadly September 11 embassy attack in response to a call from al-Qaeda to avenge the June death of a Libyan leader in an affiliated terrorist group.
Interestingly, the Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi promised to work for the release of Omar Abedel Rahman when he took his oath of office in June. “I see signs for Omar Abdel Rahman and detainees’ pictures,” the New York Times quotes him saying. “It is my duty and I will make all efforts to have them free, including Omar Abdel Rahman.” The Brotherhood later clarified that Morsi wanted Abdel Rahman “extradited to Egypt on humanitarian grounds,” rather than overturning his convictions. The promise was generally dismissed as a bit of red meat thrown to the crowds.
Libya’s Deputy Interior Minister, Wanis al-Sharif – who has been one of the most forthcoming Libyan officials during the aftermath of the attack – has a different suspect in mind: Qaddafi dead-end loyalists. Al-Sharif pointed to the rocket propelled grenades used in the attack as evidence that the killers were “remnants of the former regime,” and thought the true cause of the attack might have been the extradition of Qaddafi’s former intelligence chief from Mauritania.
Relaying this notion, an article at Digital Journal says the minister’s theory “does not make much sense,” since Qaddafi loyalists probably would not be able to coordinate their efforts with the angry mobs in Egypt. However, it is always possible that Ambassador Stevens’ murderers didn’t organize the protests they used as cover for their attack – they could have gotten wind of incipient chaos, and quickly planned a strike that would take advantage of it.
The precise degree of involvement from certain elements of the Libyan security forces remains a subject of much conjecture. As reported by CBS News, Deputy Interior Minister al-Sharif stated that “members of the Libyan security team seem to have indicated to the protesters the building to which the American officials had been relocated, and that building then came under attack.” It is possible that whichever group pulled off the attack on the ambassador compromised members of the Libyan security forces – an all too familiar danger in the Middle East. Or, if al-Sharif’s assertions hold up, it may be that these security troops made a spontaneous decision to hand the ambassador over to his killers. At the moment, too much of this attack seems carefully planned to allow for such spontaneity.
Some lawmakers don’t seem eager to absolve the Libyan government of all responsibility for the attack, or at least of negligence. Fox News reports several Republican representatives, including Reps. Tom McClintock of California and Jeff Landry of Louisiana, plus Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, expressing a desire to suspend foreign aid to both Libya and Egypt. “I was a no before, but now I’m a hell no,” said McClintock. Paul wants aid to Libya made contingent on the full cooperation of Libyan authorities in tracking down and apprehending the killers.